PA’S BLANK CHEQUE MYSTERY UNSOLVED: UNABLE TO EXPLAIN HOW IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED

SINGAPORE — It remains a mystery how a ComCare social assistance recipient — who was sentenced to four months’ jail for forgery earlier this week — was given a blank cheque last year by those disbursing the funds.

The People’s Association (PA), which oversees the Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs), has concluded its investigations into the incident. Responding to TODAY’s queries, it was unable to say how the incident could have occurred, but its spokesperson reiterated that all grassroots organisations under the PA have to observe stringent processes when issuing cheques.

The processes require three different people to be involved — one to prepare the cheque, and two others to verify and sign, she said.

The CCCs administer the CCC ComCare programme on behalf of the Government.

The statement of facts admitted to the courts said Madam Soh Teng Hua, a member of Zhenghua CCC, lodged a police report in December last year that S$8,000 was withdrawn from the bank account of Zhenghua CCC Community Development and Welfare Fund through a cheque. The cheque had been issued to Khoo Chin Guan, 29, who was a ComCare beneficiary entitled to receiving payouts of S$200 each time from the fund.

Adding that the fund did not issue a cheque of that amount to Khoo, Mdm Soh suspected that he had amended the cheque before cashing it.

The court documents said investigations revealed that in June last year, the fund had issued a cheque to Khoo “but omitted to state the amount on the said cheque”. Khoo received the cheque on July 1 last year and acknowledged receipt of it by signing on a payment voucher issued by Zhenghua CCC. He noticed that the amount fields on the cheque were left blank and filled them with “eight thousand dollars only” and “8,000”.

TODAY understands that in line with bank practice, the cheque was destroyed after an image was taken.

The PA spokesperson stressed that there was nothing amiss in the other cheques prepared in the same batches. She said the cheques and payment vouchers for CCC ComCare recipients are usually prepared by the secretary of the Community Development and Welfare Fund, using the list of recipients assessed by the CCC to be eligible to receive the assistance.

The cheques are then sent to the authorised signatories for their signature. The beneficiaries are invited to collect the cheques and are required to acknowledge its receipt by signing the payment voucher.

All CCCs follow the same procedure, including Zhenghua CCC, the spokesperson said.

“Each cheque must be accompanied by a payment voucher specifying the recipient, the purpose and that the expenditure has been approved by the relevant grassroots committee,” she added. “Cheques must be signed by two authorised signatories and all payments must be acknowledged by the recipient.”

Zhenghua CCC chairman Chai Chon Fah was at a loss to explain how it could have happened. “(It is) not one person doing the job, (there are) different people, (following) standard procedures to prepare the cheques,” he said.

Members of other CCCs said they were equally perplexed how the incident could have occurred.

Mr Wilson Zhuang, secretary of Nee Soon South CCC, noted that it would take three different people — two grassroots leaders from the CCCs and an employee from the constituency office — being careless and negligent to allow a blank cheque to be issued.

Still, Toa Payoh East CCC chairman James Teo said that since the case came to light, his CCC has strengthened the procedures by designing a checklist for every step of the process in issuing cheques.

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